It’s hard to pick the Orange Bowl between Tennessee football and Clemson. When these two teams face off Friday night, the wave of opt-outs, injuries and transfers means these teams will look nothing like they did all year.
Just to recap, the Vols are without their Heisman caliber quarterback in Hendon Hooker, who is hurt. Their two star receivers, Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, have also opted out, as has their star linebacker.
On the other side, Clemson has a new starting quarterback in Cade Klubnik, who took over in the last game of the season. Meanwhile, star defensive end Myles Murphy is opting out, and linebacker Trenton Simpson is hurt.
The line was Clemson -5.5 Friday morning with the over/under set at 63.5 on FanDuel. Lack of faith in Joe Milton III starting in place of Hooker is likely a huge reason for that. So what’s the best play?
Well, as far as standard bets go, Tennessee football +5.5 is not a bad bet. Half of bowl success is which team wants to be there, and the Vols are much more excited about being in a New Years Six game than Clemson.
Dabo Swinney’s team is disappointed by anything short of reaching the College Football Playoff. Sure, UT expected to be there too, but they can appreciate being where they are a bit more.
Now, the over/under is much trickier. It’s hard to know exactly what Milton will do in his new role, and it’s also hard to know what Clemson’s defense will look like.
However, taking the over in the first quarter over/under of 13.5 is not a bad way to go. Tennessee football games have averaged a total of 16.2 points in the first quarter, and Clemson games have averaged 11.2 points.
Given the fact that Clemson is short-handed on defense, their offense is better with Klubnik and the Vols have certain schemes they can hit them with, the first quarter will likely have some fireworks. That’s the one quarter that should have scoring no matter what.
As of writing this, FanDuel did not have any bets to place on players scoring, but if they do, Squirrel White reaching the end zone is a great bet. He’s likely to replace Jalin Hyatt in the slot this year and has been Milton’s favorite target this year.
Beyond White, Tennessee football will have more of a commitment to the run game, so Jabari Small reaching the end zone is also a good bet. Princeton Fant has a chance too as the power back.
Note: All lines are from FanDuel and subject to change; All rankings are based on College Football Playoff rankings